More on Sunday’s 9-6 victory over the Marlins, which gave the Nationals their first three-game winning streak of the season ...
* Howie Kendrick’s value to this team can’t be overstated. The veteran utility man has come through so many times for the Nationals when they’ve needed him to, and has proven to be so much more than a nice bat off the bench.
Kendrick, who got things started Sunday with a solo homer in the bottom of the second and then drove in two more runs in the third, now has 28 RBIs on the season. That’s third-most on the roster, behind only Juan Soto (35) and Anthony Rendon (31), and he’s done it in far fewer opportunities.
Kendrick has only 136 plate appearances. Go ahead and do the math: If he got 600 plate appearances, he’d end up with 124 RBIs. Not too shabby. Oh, he’s also batting .303 with an .895 OPS.
Tempting as it may be to get Kendrick more plate appearances, Davey Martinez has shied away from starting the 35-year-old every day. The manager’s reasoning is simple: He has to make sure he doesn’t run down Kendrick now and risk losing him to injury later on.
Martinez said he talks to Kendrick every day, and the latter has been good about letting him know when his legs feel heavy and he could use a day off. It’s hard to argue with the results.
“You want to put him out there every day, but I’ve got to make sure that he’s rested and that he stays healthy throughout the whole year,” Martinez said. “The good thing is that we’ve got Matty (Adams) back, and when we signed (Gerardo) Parra to play first base, those two guys help out a lot now. Two veteran guys that can come off the bench and can play first base against righties, both, so it gives us an opportunity to rest Howie and get him in when I feel that we can.”
* Kendrick has been producing all along, making up for others in the lineup who have struggled. But that group is beginning to get contributions across the board, and Brian Dozier and Yan Gomes are leading that charge of late.
Dozier, who went 3-for-5 Sunday and drove in a pair with a double, is now 11 for his last 35 with six extra-base hits. He has raised his batting average from .187 to .213.
Gomes, meanwhile, is 8 for his last 20. He has raised his batting average from .206 to .239.
Many have noted and wondered when Gomes started the last four games behind the plate over Kurt Suzuki, who has been a more productive offensive catcher this year. Martinez explained he preferred pairing Gomes up with the Nationals’ recent starters, but said Suzuki will start today and catch Max Scherzer’s start.
* The most discouraging thing to happen Sunday was something that didn’t even happen in the actual game. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t important.
Sean Doolittle had to warm up in the bullpen when things got dicey in the top of the ninth. That’s the last thing the Nationals needed on a day when they entered the eighth inning holding a commanding 9-0 lead.
The problem, of course, was that Javy Guerra gave up a two-run homer in the eighth and then rookie James Bourque was charged with four runs in only two-thirds of an inning in the ninth during his major league debut. Bourque clearly was dealing with some nerves, which explains his lack of command. But he also could’ve escaped it with a zero on the board had Dozier been able to complete a play on Harold Ramirez’s two-out grounder to the right side.
When Dozier didn’t make the play, the inning continued. And Bourque served up a three-run double to Brian Anderson. That prompted Martinez to bring in Wander Suero to record the final out, but when Suero gave up an RBI single to Neil Walker, Martinez had little choice but to have Doolittle start warming just in case.
Doolittle’s services ultimately weren’t needed because Suero struck out Starlin Castro to end the game, but it still proved to be unnecessary wear and tear on the closer’s left arm. This isn’t the first time Doolittle had to warm up in what looked like a blowout. And that might just catch up with him some day.
As if this wasn’t already obvious enough: The Nationals desperately need one or two reliable relievers to emerge and pitch in front of Doolittle, preventing him from wasted warm-up sessions.